The ACLU and Humans Rights Watch today released “Deportation By Default,” a report that highlights the problems immigrants with mental health disabilities face when detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Luis, a Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center client, was interviewed for the report and is featured on a podcast (which you can listen to after the jump). A Miami resident, Luis was born in the Dominican Republic and has been a lawful permanent resident for 29 years.
According to FIAC
In his teens Luis got into trouble with the law while exhibiting many symptoms of mental illness. At age 23, he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia after a second suicide attempt. His behavior improved radically with treatment and a supportive living environment.
Nonetheless, due to old convictions, Luis was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During his six months in detention, ICE repeatedly mismanaged his medication, resulting in the rapid return of severe schizophrenic symptoms that caused multiple delays of his court hearings. Ultimately the immigration judge granted Luis relief that allowed him to stay in the United States as a permanent resident, be released from detention, and return to his treatment program.
The report indicates that
Every year, several hundred thousand people—including people who have lived in the United States since childhood, people who have fled persecution in their homeland to seek asylum in the US, economic migrants who have entered the country without work authorization or over-stayed nonimmigrant visas to seek employment—are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Some of these people have mental disabilities. While no exact official figures exist, the percentage of non-citizens in immigration proceedings with a mental disability is estimated to be at least 15 percent of the total immigrant population in detention—in other words, an estimated 57,000 in 2008.
Listen to the Human Rights Watch podcast: